As Spring Training starts to settle into a routine, there are still a number of good free agents that remain unsigned. The Phillies are known to have an interest in at least one of them, former Cubs starter Jake Arrieta. The problem is that the two sides are still pretty far apart in what they’re looking for in a contract and with Scott Boras serving as Arrieta’s agent, it’s not likely that the gap is going to move too far from where Arrieta is at right now. Of course, as the season slowly nears, that could all change.
Phillies team president Andy MacPhail said at the start of camp that the team wasn’t likely to sign any prime free agents, but just a couple days later came word that the Phillies and Arrieta were talking contract.
With Boras likely using Yu Darvish and his six-year, $126-million deal with the Cubs as a point of reference, the Phillies aren’t likely to be involved at that level either in years or the amount of money. A recent trend in contracts – including the one signed by Darvish – is to provide the player with an opt-out clause after a few seasons to pursue other options. Darvish can opt-out of the deal after the 2019 season if he chooses.
While Boras is using Darvish as a comparison in terms of contract length and money, he insists that Arrieta and Darvish aren’t a good comparison in that Arrieta has won a Cy Young and has had success in the postseason, where Darvish hasn’t accomplished either of those things. Instead, Boras is looking at pitchers like David Price (7 years/$217-million), Zack Greinke (6/$206.5) and Max Scherzer (7/$210) for comparisons because they have won awards and excelled in postseason play.
For their part, the Phillies are thinking more in the range of three-years on Arrieta. With their newfound reliance on analytics, they’re looking at Arrieta’s drop in fastball velocity and an increase in hard-hit rate for Arrieta. On the upside, Arrieta improved his sinker late last season and limited hitters to a .235 average in his 12 second half starts, which coincided with his increasing reliance on the sinker to get hitters out. In his final 12 starts, Arrieta threw a sinker on 65.8 percent of his pitches as opposed to throwing it 58.1 percent of the time in his first 18 starts. The result was an ERA of 4.35 in his first 18 starts and an ERA of 2.28 in his final 12 starts of the season.
It’s thought that the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles and Twins are also talking with Boras about signing Arrieta.